New series: Writing Tips

My writing tips

Last Saturday I wrote a small snippet of a story and by using it as a template, I want to highlight important storytelling elements. This will be an ongoing series. 
The Lowest Point

My wife and I enjoy watching Jane the Virgin (on Netflix. We are behind so please no spoilers!!) There is a brief story arc in which Jane’s father, international telenovela star Rogelio, is kidnapped by a stalker. Throughout the episode, he is planning his escape. He is getting friendly with his captor, being on good behavior and then the moment comes and he is about to escape. He is right at the door and he is caught. 

While reflecting on this scene I thought, “I know why he didn’t escape. He hasn’t reached his lowest point yet.”

The lowest point is part of a character’s story arc. They have an obstacle, someone or something is standing in their way. Often, plans do not work out right the first time (just like real life!), and they enter their lowest point. 

Try this exercise. Raise your hand as high as you can. I know it’s silly but no one is watching so go ahead, as high and you can. Now, raise it higher. You were probably able to raise your hand even higher the second time despite, supposedly, raising it as high as you could the first time.

For a character’s story arc, this can be inversed. What is the character’s lowest point? Now go lower. 

It’s mean, as a writer to do that to someone, even fictional, but the lowest point contrasts with the success, making the victory even better. 

In my short narrative, I tried to demonstrate the lowest point. In an instant everything was taken from him, especially the woman he loved. And he was hopeless to save his people. He was in his lowest point. But a question creeps into the mind, now how does he escape?

The deeper the hole, the more the reader wants to see the hero succeed. How do they get out? As one sees the characters succeed it gives hope to real life events. 

Happy writing!

“Sigo en la lucha”: I’m still in the fight

Like all idioms and sayings, it doesn’t translate perfectly. “Sigo en la lucha,” means, “I’m still in the fight.” (Not to be confused with “Sigo en la ducha,” which would be, “I’m still in the shower”).

When I lived in Argentina. I’d ask, “how are you?” to which many replied, “I’m still in the fight.”

Writing is tough. Sure it’s not football tough, or, construction job tough, or social worker tough. Writing has its own difficulties and challenges. It fatigues my mind and makes me restless. The emotional strength needed to handle criticism, or just friendly advise, is monumental. And finding the time… I don’t time to talk about that!

As writers, let’s “stay in the fight.” One day we will reach our goal. And honestly, even if we don’t, we write because we love to and that’s reward enough. 

The Writer’s Life: Perception vs. Reality

You know those scenes in movies where the character(s) are determined to work? They get into it, all happy with awesome music playing in the background. They wipe their brow off all tired, comical scenes ensue and within the three minute song the goal is done?

This happens with writing portrayals too. The writer sits at a computer, the ideas flowing and the sentences are running across the page. The writer looks pensively out a window, probably with their fingers at their temples, gazing through their glasses. 

How about the writer who has all the cool accessories? They have a cool notebook and pencil, or a laptop with cool stickers on the front and probably a cool bag to boot. They are well put together and look smart. 

The reality is that writing isn’t easy, despite the words rolling off the page and having a cool notebook.

There is so much more to it!

What isn’t shown is the editing and the daily struggle, the endurance to keep rewriting. 

Honestly, that is the bulk of being a writer, revising what you already wrote. It’s tedious, the opposite of cool, but the reward of achieving a fine narrative… worth it!

Expanded Universe and Cartoons

Maybe it’s just me but cartoons are getting more complicated. It seems that cartoons now have an overarching plot, and an expanded universe with history and character back story.

I was thinking of the plot structure in such cartoons as Adventure Time and Steven Universe. They start off small, simple characters, simple stories and often filled with goofy antics. As the episodes progress, the world becomes bigger, deeper and scarier. We learn about the past, about deception and death. We learn more about those we called family, and how they are not so one-sided. 

I think this kind of “unfolding” story is popular because the progression of the story mirrors growing up. That is, as we grow up, the world becomes more complicated. Gone are the days of simple yes or no, good guys, bad guys and the world becomes more intricate, indiscernible, and often, darker.

These sort of stories are a type of “rites of passage,” which I like a lot. Trouble is that everything is so dark. I feel like stories have to be dark to be liked. Regardless, I like how these kinds of stories start of small and expand and develope. I’m excited to see how they evolve over the years. 

Maybe one of my own stories will leave a mark. 🙂

ISWG Writing Contest

“What is ISWG?” you asked yourself. It stands ofr Insecure Writers’ Group.

It’s this group I found on Facebook. I like it because everybody is open and non-judgemental. It’s a safe zone for learning and putting yourself out there.

They are currently hosting a writing contest, ending 10/31. I thought to myself, “this is my chance!” I had an idea in the back of my head that I told myself, “If I ever enter a writing contest, I’m using this idea.”

While writing, I was concerned about the word count. 5000-6000 words. I worried, “I won’t have enough! I’ll have too much!!” I stopped myself. “Don’t worry. Just write.” (Good slogan for a coffee mug. Patent pending!)

I finished my story and began editing. Then I noticed the word count was over 9000… I didn’t know what to do! The story was solid! I couldn’t cut anything out! 

So I decided not to enter the contest. The due date is in two days, I can’t write another story that fast and I don’t want to change the great story I already have, just for a word count.

Tough decisions, but I’m sure there are other writing contests out there. Let me know of any!